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Clothing: 1920 - 1930

The glory box and the trousseau were symbols of marriage preparation in the 1920s. There was a major transformation in dress styles.  This saw loose dresses with low  necklines, straight loose sleeves, raised or dropped waistlines. These were easier to make, easier to fit and used less material – a democratisation of dress. Hair fashion for young women moved toward the boyish look. Women's undergarments were also freed up  with rayon stockings and less restrictive corsets.

Menswear showed increased informality with knitted pullovers and lighter colours and fabrics. Post First World War  there was a rise of ready-to-wear garments. As wartime developments in mass production of uniforms flowed through into the general clothing market.  This prompted local Department Stores to develop dedicated menswear departments, with separate street entrances to encourage men to come into the shops. Toiletries and other aids to male appearance also began to be advertised. More revealing underwear likewise indicated a changed representation of masculinity with a new emphasis on an athletic body.

Bathing costumes for both sexes also reflected this changing emphasis on the body as well as the greater access to the beach.

evening dress is homemadeThis early 1920s evening dress is homemade using fabrics and garment parts recycled from earlier dresses. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Blazer & TrousersA more sporty, informal combination for men from the 1920s. Cream worsted trousers with pleats and cuffs. The navy wool double breasted blazer was made by Roslyn in Dunedin. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)


Note the differing styles of bathing suits worn by the contestants in this St Clair beach 'Bathing Beauty Competition' of the late 1920s. (Otago Witness, 28 February 1928, Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

LongjohnsThick, knitted wool long johns were a standard product of the Roslyn mill, and a godsend, no doubt, for men who had to work outside or in draughty buildings. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Hallenstein BrothersThis display sign recalls an era when Hallenstein Brothers (HBs) dominated the retail clothing trade for men, with a nation-wide chain of stores and a central Dunedin headquarters. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

mechanised display mannequinThis mechanised display mannequin from Hallenstein's was operated by a clock-work driven system of wires and levers. The figure moved its arms and head. It shows the increasingly sophisticated marketing of men's clothing in the 1920s. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

portable electric domestic machineAlthough experiments with electrically powered sewing machines go back as far as the 1870s, it was not until the 1920s that electric sewing machines began entering the home. Singer produced their first portable electric domestic machine in 1921 and other manufacturers soon followed suit. This Jones model was made in 1927-8. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)


[Next: 1930 to 1940]

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